Thursday Senator John Ensign announced that he will resign effective May 3. Most of us in Nevada were not overly surprised, except maybe at the timing.
Sen. Ensign did an effective job for Nevada until a few years ago when he made the serious mistake of having an affair with a staff member. And that led to a series of other mistakes which have overshadowed his work in the Senate ever since.
I’m curious about the timing of this resignation. Other senators and congresspersons have succumbed to the seduction of Washington power, and most have resigned as soon as the affairs come to light. Sen. Ensign seemed to feel he had sought and received forgiveness from his family and wanted to continue to serve Nevada. Why resign now when he had recently announced he would not seek re-election? I can speculate in two directions. (I have no political connections, so these are truly just theories.)
Sen. Ensign may have gotten wind of how the Ethics Committee is leaning. In his announcement, he did mention that public hearings would harm his family. But surely he was aware of this possibility two years ago when the ethics investigation began. It’s possible that his family thought they could handle this, but now find they can’t.
The cynical side of me has to wonder if politics plays any part. Did Nevada GOP leaders come up with a plan to enhance their 2012 Congressional election odds and convince Sen. Ensign to go along? Republican Governor Sandoval could appoint Congressman Dean Heller, who has already announced he will run for Ensign’s Senate seat. What would that do to the Republican field for Heller’s House seat?
It will be interesting to see this drama play out over the next two weeks.